Friday 10 July 2020

#CBR12 Book 40: "My Favorite Half-Night Stand" by Christina Lauren

Page count: 384 pages
Audio book length: 7 hrs 8 mins
Rating: 3 stars

#CBR12 Bingo: Friendship (the friendship between the two protagonists and the rest of their group is really central to the story)

Official book description:
Millie Morris has always been one of the guys. A UC Santa Barbara professor, she’s a female-serial-killer expert who’s quick with a deflection joke and terrible at getting personal. And she, just like her four best guy friends and fellow professors, is perma-single.

So when a routine university function turns into a black-tie gala, Mille and her circle make a pact that they’ll join an online dating service to find plus-ones for the event. There’s only one hitch: after making the pact, Millie and one of the guys, Reid Campbell, secretly spend the sexiest half-night of their lives together, but mutually decide the friendship would be better off strictly platonic.

But online dating isn’t for the faint of heart. While the guys are inundated with quality matches and potential dates, Millie’s first profile attempt garners nothing but dick pics and creepers. Enter “Catherine”—Millie’s fictional profile persona, in whose make-believe shoes she can be more vulnerable than she’s ever been in person. Soon “Catherine” and Reid strike up a digital pen-pal-ship...but Millie can’t resist temptation in real life, either. Soon, Millie will have to face her worst fear—intimacy—or risk losing her best friend, forever.

While Christina Lauren's contemporary romances used to be a sure hit with me, and always seemed to entertain and give me the requisite levels of swoon, ever since they went away from really rather explicit and steamy books after completing their Wild Seasons series, their output has been decidedly up and down in quality. While some still really work for me and I would happily recommend them, like Dating You/Hating You and Josh and Hazel's Guide to Not Dating, others are best left forgotten entirely, like Roomies. This one, I suspect, falls somewhere in the middle, but it didn't really fully work for me at the point when I was reading it, certainly.

For a romance to work, I need to be able to root for both protagonists and want them to have a happily ever after. Unfortunately, for most of the book, Millie is basically lying not only to her larger group of friends, but to Reid, her best friend and the man she keeps secretly communicating with through the dating app. The authors try to give the readers reasons for why she keeps up the charade for as long as she does, but it made it difficult to like her and I certainly didn't feel like she deserved a happy ending for far too much of the book's runtime. That is a major problem in a romance novel.

Now, our hero, Reid, is fine. I also really liked the bigger group of mutual friends who surround Millie and Reid and make up a very important part of the story too. While Millie and Reid are the only POV characters (narrated by a woman and a man on the audio), the book would not work half as well without the many hijinks of their circle of friends. They were part of the reason I kept reading, even when I was pretty unsure about whether Millie and Reid would ever work as a couple. Open and honest communication is incredibly important, Millie sucks at open and honest communication.

There are reasons given for Millie's emotional reticence, I just found myself getting increasingly more frustrated with them. She was a text book case of "See a therapist!" and so many of her hang-ups could have been fixed if she'd been sensible and just talked to someone about all of this. She does realise that she's done a bad thing by deceiving Reid for much of the book, and does some quality grovelling towards the end. It was enough to earn the book a full three stars, which, considering there were sections where I wasn't sure I even wanted to finish the book, seemed unlikely the book would achieve until the final third or so. Having now finished the book, I don't necessarily regret reading it, but I wouldn't recommend anyone but die-hard completist Christina Lauren fans read it, and even then, only if they can find it on sale or at a library.

Judging a book by its cover: I'm not wild about this cover, it's very non-descript. Is it yellow? Is it lime green? Who knows? The little text bubbles are a nice touch since the characters communicate a lot with each other on their phones, but I think this cover is yet another sign that Christina Lauren are trying to move more into women's fiction or chick lit, rather than straight out romance. If it wasn't for the actual title of the book, you'd never guess that this was a romance novel.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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